U.S. expands Venezuela sanctions, mounting pressure on Maduro’s government

U.S. Treasury Department on Friday expanded the scope of its Venezuela sanctions to the defense and security services sectors as part of the campaign against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

U.S. and foreign companies working with Venezuela’s defense and security services sectors can now be sanctioned, the Treasury Department said, adding to penalties for companies working in the oil and banking sectors.

The move puts on notice foreign suppliers of military spare parts or telecommunications equipment and services, it said.

The Trump administration also blacklisted two new shipping companies and two oil tanker ships for shipping oil from Venezuela to Cuba. These companies were identified as Monsoon Navigation Corp, based in the Marshall Islands, and Liberia-based Serenity Navigation Ltd.

Monsoon’s tanker Ocean Elegance and Serenity Maritime’s Leon Dias delivered crude oil from Venezuela to Cuba from late 2018 through March 2019, the Treasury Department said. Both tankers have Panama flags. 

The sanctions block firms and ships from dealings with U.S. persons and companies, and freeze any assets the firms may own or control in the United States.

The political standoff in Venezuela continued after a failed uprising last week called by the opposition leader Juan Guaido. He invoked the country’s constitution in January to assume an interim presidency and got backed by the United States.

On Friday, Venezuela’s Supreme Court said Guaido’s top deputy Edgar Zambrano was jailed at a military prison in Caracas for “the flagrant commission of the crimes of treason, conspiracy and civil rebellion.” Zambrano was arrested by the country’s intelligence service in dramatic circumstances Wednesday for supporting the failed April 30 uprising.

The court said Zambrano was transferred to the headquarters of the military police in Caracas’ largest military complex, Fort Tiuna.  

Separately, Venezuela announced it was reopening its land border with Brazil after Maduro ordered it shut in February. Venezuelan vice-president Tareck El Aissami said the frontier with Brazil was “once again restored” adding that maritime links with the Caribbean island of Aruba were also reopened. 

The border with Colombia and links with the Dutch Antilles will remain closed, El Aissami said. 


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